Tuesday, 30 September 2014

#TGFW--Thank God For Writing

A few months back, the lovely Vanessa Harbour and I were sharing some thoughts on Twitter, and came up (simultaneously, as I recall) with the phrase "Thank God For Writing". We are still waiting for the hashtag #tgfw to become as well known as #tgif or even #amwriting!

As I remember, our exchange was about the way that writing can be a help and refuge in times of difficulty or distress.  Of course, for many of us, it's the writing itself that causes the difficulty or distress--writing is a frustrating, even heartbreaking pursuit at times

For Vanessa, writing provides an outlet to feelings that can't be expressed elsewhere. She talks about the way poetry (not her usual genre, and not written for publication or even to be shown to others) helps her work through her emotions or anxieties, and takes her to a clearer place. For many writers, this is probably the way writing "helps.": by creating a semblance of order out of out of a perplexing, senseless world.

However, my take on TGFW is different...

To put it simply, writing takes me to another place.

Writing lets me disappear from my own world, with its problems and conflicts, and hurls me headlong into the world of my story, with all its problems and conflicts. Jumping into character, being somebody who isn't me, living in a house or country or planet that isn't my house or country or planet, is liberating. Smelling and feeling and getting the sense of this other--often terrifying--world is exhilerating. It's an escape--and at times, it's a sanctuary.

Here's a true story.

Several months ago, I was working on my current WIP. Things were not going well in my personal life, so sitting at my desk and writing was a way to take a break from real-time anxieties. Immersing myself in my story was like diving into a mysterious pool or being hurtled, Dorothy-like, into a far-flung land. The world I was creating seemed vivid, and real--it felt like I was there. So one morning, while I was deep in my writing, my daughter crept into the room and asked a question. She stood by my desk, but I remained in my imagined forest. She asked again, somewhat louder, but I still didn't budge. Finally she shouted--"Mum!"

I blinked a couple times, and looked at her. My very first thoughts were: Who are you? Why are you here?

It was like I was sleepwalking--dreaming--and I had to wake myself up.

"Are there any clean tights, Mum?"

OK, this has not happened since (so don't worry about my state of mind) but it was such a powerful feeling--being lost-yet-safe in writing--that I really didn't want to finish the story and send it off to my agent. I wanted to live in this other world for just a little while longer...

So, that's why I #tgfw. For all its perils, for all the setbacks and disappointments, writing is a safe place to hide...

PS. And yes, dear readers--there were clean tights!


  1. This is wonderful and so true. Must be honest I do that with my writing too. Maybe we need variations of #TGFW. I escape into my writing when I can and can become so involved that everything else disappears. My children would empathise with your daughter when they lived at homes. There was many a time they couldn't get through to me as I was so deep in my story I didn't hear a thing. Love this post, thank you for doing it Jane and good luck with the writing

  2. Thanks, Ness. Sentiment works for all art forms, Monica!

  3. #tgfw yes indeed! I'd love some strategies on how to get into that dream state as quickly as possible. The outside world is so clamorous at the moment. Lovely post. Thank you.

  4. I can easily find myself in that place when I read but find it much harder to achieve when I write- too many Procrastination Pixies pointing out other places I could visit.

  5. Thanks, Candy and KA (if I may call you that!). The thing is, sadly, that for this trick to work the rest of your life has to be in a pretty dismal state. I need to find a way to harness this "zone" now that I'm happier again!

  6. Cracking post Jane, and glad to have you back in Blogland! Great hashtag, I'm seeing the mugs and T-shirts already. Ever since I was a kid, the only way I could calm the racket in my head was to write it down as songs, stories and comics. Without writing I suspect my head would have exploded years ago. #TGFW — amen to that!

  7. Thanks, Dave. If Vanessa and I see some dodgy-looking mugs in Poundland this Christmas, we'll know where to send the Trading Standards people! Now might nick your idea about the kid with the word-filled exploding head...